Meet Downton’s Dashing Mensch
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Meet Downton’s Dashing Mensch

Amy Sara Clark writes about politics and education. A Columbia Journalism School graduate, she's worked at CBS News, The Journal News, The Jersey Journal, Mom365, JTA and Prospect Heights Patch. She comes to journalism from academia where she earned a master's degree in European History with a focus on Vichy France.

It’s the talk of the Jew-ternet: Downton Abbey has an honest-to-goodness Jewish character. And he’s not just passing through: He’s dating Lady Rose and seems to be in season five for the long haul.

There’s more. The PBS import series doesn’t portray him as a caricature, a diamond dealer or bookkeeper or clothing store mogul. Yes, his parents are rich bankers. But they’ve also British aristocracy. Also, he’s a mensch; he met the free-spirited Rose in episode five, which aired on Sunday, when he offers to help her carry some baskets.

There’s been a lot of talk in the digital Jewniverse of how hunky this Atticus Aldrige is. And here at the Jewish Week, we fully agree. There’s also been some talk about how non-Jewish he looks —and on that point we must part ways. Yes, he has blue eyes. But look at his Semitic nose, high cheekbones and dark hair.

A mensch in the Abbey. PBS.orgIt was a disappointment to learn that actor Matt Barber is not, in fact, a member of the tribe. Far from it: He even sang in a church choir. But that doesn’t detract (much) from the excitement of having a major Jewish character join the Downton crew.

In Season Two we all got our hopes up when we learned that the Countess of Grantham’s maiden name was Levinson and her father a “Cincinnati dry goods millionaire.” But the show’s creator, Julian Fellowes, declined to comment on her heritage, and it was only later, in a companion book to the series, that we learn that Lady Cora’s mother was not Jewish, and raised her children Episcopalian.

Despite — or perhaps because of — this earlier backpedaling, season five embraces its Jewish character fully.

But will Lady Rose’s family follow suit? From previous seasons, it wouldn’t look good. The Rose’s previous beaus — one married, the other black — were both rejected by the Crawleys. But — and here’s a spoiler alert — in later episodes Rose introduces her family to his. While the Crawley clan doesn’t exactly celebrate, they do accept it, with Cousin Isobel noting, according to the Times of Israel, that at least Jews “are not like the Catholics. They don’t insist that you convert.” The Dowager Countess is a bit more begrudging, responding to the news with “It’s always something.”

But what about our family? Will members of the tribe be rooting for the couple to make it to the chuppah? That no doubt will depend on which part of the tribe you ascribe to. But this member of the tribe hopes to be wishing them L’Chaim before the season is through.

amyclark@jewishweek.org

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